Updated: Feb 14, 2022
We all have big dreams and aspirations.
We desire to be the best version of ourselves possible. Think about it. Doctors, lawyers, CEOs and multi-million dollar business owners. And let me be the first to tell you. Those are great dreams, and they’re things every one of us should all shoot to attain. But there’s a harsh reality that most people aren’t willing to face: to reach great goals like those, you will fail along the way. That’s the way life is.
Nothing worth truly having comes without failure somewhere along the way. Despite what the lights and glamour of success may lead you to believe, people fail … great people fail.
Michael Jordan. Winston Churchill. Henry Ford. Elvis Presley. These four are the who’s who of their respective professions and careers. And what do they all have in common? They were all failures. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, told he wasn’t good enough. Winston Churchill? Finished last in his class before becoming one of history’s single greatest leaders. Henry Ford declared bankruptcy FIVE TIMES before his model T became the bedrock for the Ford Motor Company. And Elvis Presley? Well, the king of rock and roll got an F in his high school music class.
Great people fail … but great people also get right back up and go again.
Was Michael Jordan the only player cut from the Laney High School varsity basketball team in 1978? Of course not. But he was the only one that won six world championships and is now in the NBA fall of fame. Was Elvis the only student to receive an F in that music class? Probably not. But he most certainly was the only one to eventually have 18 different singles reach the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top 20 list.
The writer of Ecclesiastes states that the end of a thing is better than its beginning; and that concept should ring true for us still today. Every one of us has a special piece of history inside our very being that we are called to deliver to the world. Unfortunately, however, too many times we let someone or something else steal our greatness away from us. We allow one mistake or setback to determine our value and success. We allow the doubters, haters, and critics to define our lives instead of living the life that we know we are called to live.
I call these types of people dream killers. They always seem to pop up when we make a mistake or things aren’t going your way. And in that moment they seize the opportunity to put you down and make you feel like you’re never going to be good enough.
Harry Warner, Tris Speaker, and Ken Olsen are three classic examples of dream killers.
In 1927, Harry M. Warner was the head of Warner Brothers pictures and he had received a proposal for including sound with Warner Brothers movies. His response? “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
In the late 1910s and early 1920s, Tris Speaker was one of the best offensive players in Major League Baseball. When asked his thoughts about Babe Ruth giving up pitching to focus on hitting, Speaker responded, “Ruth made a grave mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star.“
Ken Olsen was the President, Chairman, and founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). The DEC was a leading vendor of computer systems including computers and software for almost four decades from the 1950s to the 1990s. In 1977 Olsen said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Dream killers are those that don’t have your best interests in mind. They focus on the negative and second-guess the dreams you have inside your heart.
Know this, your life belongs to you and no one else. No one can take your success from you – including dream killers – unless you listen as they call out your failures and allow them to have it.
Now if you’ve been in or around church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the following scripture before. Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
“And after you have done everything, to stand.”
The end of this verse is real-life preparation. It’s this idea that we must prepare ourselves on a daily basis in order to deal with all of the things that will come at us to knock us down. But after all is said and done, what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to stand.
Notice it doesn’t say to lay down for a while and feel sorry for ourselves, then maybe think about getting back up as long as no other trials or hardships are coming. No. It says to stand.
My next sentence will come as no surprise to anyone ... Life sucks sometimes. You don’t need me (or anyone else) to convince you of that. But what if those hard times aren’t really about the difficulty of the moment at all? Rather, what if those “sucky” times in our life are really about our response to them? What if it isn’t about when you get knocked down, but if you’re willing to get back up?
As a coach, I always wanted to teach my players how to respond to the “bad things” that happen during a basketball game. The missed shots, turnovers, bad calls, fouls, etc. We know they’re going to happen, and great players aren’t surprised by them. In fact, great players expect them to happen. Great players know these moments are not failures … they’re opportunities.
The same thing is true in your own personal life. When life gets hard, how are you going to react? Are you going to feel sorry for yourself? Or are you going to grab the steering wheel of your life and see your dreams through to their completion?
Truly successful people know that life isn’t about failing. It’s about what you do in response to your failures. My advice to you? Dream big, go hard, and fail. Then once you fall, get back up and do it all over again. For it is in our failures that we also find our greatest strength. It’s the moments of uncertainty and hardship where confidence and an indomitable spirit are formed.
The bottom line is this. No matter what happens in life, don’t ever settle for second best or second rate. Determine what's best for your life and run headfirst after it. Sure, you will probably trip and fall somewhere along the way, but that’s when you show your true colors. That’s when you get back up and keep going, even when others around you give up and continue to lie on the ground.
Perhaps former President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Be in the arena. Work hard, strive valiantly. Fail. Fall down and get back up again. And after you have done everything, stand.